The new season in the South Australian National Premier League promises to start with a bang this weekend.
The new season in the South Australian National Premier League starts with a bang, as Champions Campbelltown City welcome Adelaide Blue Eagles to Steve Woodcock Sports Centre on Saturday in the Grand Final rematch.
The Red Devils claimed their first championship since 1986 last September. They did it the hard way in the Finals - triumphing in two penalty shootouts before defeating Minor Premiers MetroStars and coming from behind at Coopers Stadium.
Captain Vas Parhas says his team are confident ahead of the new campaign, but accepts they will be targeted.
“We go in feeling pretty confident and know this season we become the hunted. We-re expecting it,” said Parhas.
“Yet we know being champions doesn-t count for anything when the whistle blows on Saturday.”
It was a busy summer for Campbelltown. Luigi DiTroia arrived from Blue Eagles, but Calvin Mbarga went in the opposite direction. Additionally, Ben Moore, Tony Hatzis, Rhys Townsend and Mark Graham will don the red shirt. Les Pogliacomi and Michael Menechella have retired and players were lost to Adelaide United.
The captain believes player movement between the two will add extra spice to the derby. The Red Devils started last term with victory over Blue Eagles on their way to glory, and hope to be around the mark again.
“It-s an exciting start. This is always a big fixture. I-m looking forward to a hotly contested game.
“We had a solid pre-season and our current fitness levels are reasonable - although there-s room for improvement.
“We made a number of signings, but also lost key players and so it will take time to gel.
“Finishing first has the added carrot of involvement in the National Premier League competition, but our first aim is to be in the Finals.”
Blue Eagles peaked at the right time in 2013, heading the chasing pack to finish second behind a dominant MetroStars outfit. They were successful against MetroStars in the Finals and although getting off to a good start in the decider, eventually fell to their local adversaries.
Striker Kym Harris cannot wait for the new season to start and is looking forward to meeting the Red Devils.
“All the ingredients are there for a great start to the year,” said Harris.
“For us it-s an opportunity to get one back on them.
“We-re probably still a bit underdone, but the guys are slowly getting back to full fitness and are eager to get going.”
New boss Zoran Karadzic saw his Blue Eagles outfit get their campaign off and running with a pulsating Coca-Cola Federation Cup victory over Playford City.
Mbarga was their main summer signing, but DiTroia and Liam Molesworth have departed.
Harris, who was on the scoresheet in last weekend-s extra-time win, hopes it was the start of a big season for Blue Eagles.
“Things don-t always go to plan. It was a close game, but on the plus side we got more time in the legs.
“Going to extra time won-t be an excuse for Round 1. We-ve had a good week at training.
“We want to win as much as possible this season. There are good teams to contend with, but we want to go far in both competitions. We have a squad to do so too. It-s mostly the same as last season, and we-ve added Calvin.”
Elsewhere, historical adversaries West Adelaide and Adelaide City open the new season at Adelaide Shores Football Centre on Friday.
The pair of former National Soccer League Champions are ready to reignite their rivalry, with West returning to the top flight after conquering the State League. Equipped with a strong squad, they are taking on an Adelaide City unit eager to atone for last season-s early Finals exit.
Two sides which fell just short of the 2013 Finals clash as Para Hills host West Torrens Birkalla at The Paddocks on Saturday.
The home side will be eager to make amends for their dual losses against Birkalla last season. Mike Barnett-s side eventually missed the top six by just three points. Both were successful in the opening round of the Federation Cup last weekend.
Western Strikers take on the surprise outfit of last season when they host Cumberland United at Carnegie Reserve on Saturday.
Strikers endured a frustrating and inconsistent term as they finished in eighth. Meanwhile, the Foxes dazzled on their way to the Minor Semi Final. The pair got off to a bright start in the Cup, enjoying dominant victories over State League opposition.
MetroStars are aiming to get their campaign off to a winning start against White City at TK Shutter Reserve on Saturday.
MetroStars romped to the Minor Premiership in 2013, although could not go all the way in the Finals. As usual, they will look to compete for the championship once again. White City won-t be repeating last year-s Cup heroics following an early elimination, but look a promising unit.
Perennial Finals contenders Raiders represent a difficult opening challenge for newly promoted South Adelaide at the Croatian Sports Centre on Sunday.
Knocked out in the first week of the Finals the past two seasons, Raiders will be hoping for another opportunity to go further with their exciting squad. The Panthers are preparing for a club milestone - their first ever top flight match - and will look to build on last week-s Cup win.
Adelaide Comets engineered a great escape last term and take on a Croydon outfit eager to compensate for an injury-ravaged season at Santos Stadium on Monday.
Comets late-season revival saw them pip Adelaide Cobras to 12th and a Premier League future. They enjoyed an emphatic Cup win last week, while Croydon had a bye. Season 2013 was disappointing for the Kings, who struggled for consistency amid constant injuries.
Friday February 21
West Adelaide v Adelaide City7:45pm - Adelaide Shores Football Centre, West Beach Road, WEST BEACH
Saturday February 22
Para Hills v West Torrens Birkalla 3pm - The Paddocks, Bridge Road, PARA HILLS
Campbelltown City v Adelaide Blue Eagles
When: Saturday, February 22nd. Kick-off 3pm Where: Steve Woodcock Sports Centre, Stradbroke Road, NEWTON
Campbelltown City: 5 L. Ditroia 19 L. Farquhar 3 M. Graham 11 J. Halliday RGK N. Harpas 7 T. Hatzis 12 S. Isabel 9 S. Maio 14 D. Matricciani 15 M. Matricciani 13 T. Mcsorley GK M. Moore 8 M. Paleka 6/C V. Parhas 17 W. Russell 16 R. Townsend 21 S. Weidenbach
Adelaide Blue Eagles: 5 C. Annicchiarico 3 S. Annicchiarico 4 C. Atsikbasis 7 J. Boyokino RGK M. Catford 16 M. Charalambous GK F. Cona 8 D. Crettenden 9 F. Filletti 11 J. Giannitto 20 A. Harris 18 K. Harris 23 D. Kenrick 2 L. Lawless 17 C. Mbarga 13 M. Nicholson 10 S. Saccoh 15 M. Tosic 6 S. Viola 12 A. Vizzari
Western Strikers v Cumberland United 7pm - Carnegie Reserve, Kingston Avenue, ROYAL PARK
MetroStars v White City 7pm - TK Shutter Reserve, Fourth Avenue, KLEMZIG
Sunday February 23
Raiders v South Adelaide3pm - Croatian Sports Centre, State Sports Park, off Main North Road, GEPPS CROSS
Monday February 24
Adelaide Comets v Croydon7:45pm - Santos Stadium, Railway Terrace, MILE END